A new way to edit your app settings

by CameronM 28. November 2012 18:54

As part of the recent changes to the Windows Phone SDK, Microsoft has kindly added a user interface for editing your app’s manifest file.

Back in Windows Phone 7/Visual Studio 2010 days, when you wanted to define the capabilities your app required, or make other configuration changes, you had to edit the XML directly in the WMAppManifest file.

Edit the raw XML to make changes in Windows Phone 7

The Windows Phone 8 SDK now includes a nice little manifest designer, which is not only a nice touch, but pretty much required now that there is a raft of new properties that you can set.

Double clicking the WMAppMenifest file in your Visual Studio project will automatically open the manifest designer, instead of the XML source. The various settings in the manifest are available from one of the tabbed sections of the manifest designer.

Easily set app capabilities using the new Manifest Designer

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Windows Phone 8 | WP8

Windows Phone 8 – First Look at the SDK

by CameronM 1. November 2012 06:24

So like many Windows developers I have been waiting (not so patiently) for the release of the Windows Phone 8 SDK. Like many, I questioned Microsoft's delay at releasing the SDK to the developer community and wondered why it had taken them so long.

Having downloaded the SDK after its Tuesday release and thrown together a quick sample project, I can honestly say that I am impressed. What has impressed me the most is the quality of the emulator. The Windows Phone 7 emulator helped you develop apps by providing the hooks to many of the built in features, such as contacts and the camera, but these were only available when you called specific methods of the API. For instance, you only had access to the contacts list when you called one of the chooser tasks, such as the email address chooser task. In the Windows Phone 8 SDK all this has changed. The emulator provides what can only be described as the complete phone OS in a virtual machine.

As I fired up my first WP8 app (using one of the ready-to-run templates) I was more interesting in hitting the Windows key on the emulator and exploring the WP8 interface than I was on getting down-and-dirty with the XAML or c# code. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. As I said to a colleague, if I could pick up my laptop and start making calls I'd be running this baby everywhere.

Start Screen

The most obvious change between WP7 and WP8 is the start screen. Gone is the "waste of space" (as one buddy called it) at the right hand side and in its place is a full-screen of customizable live-tiles that enable you to make YOUR Windows Phone truly yours. No longer are you stuck with the grid of 62x62 pixel tiles. You can now choose from three sizes depending on the importance you place on the application the tile refers to. Spend all your time texting your friends, then you'll want the Messaging tile huge.

Kid's Corner

 

As the father of a 4-year old, I can't tell you how excited I was when I first read about the Kid's Corner feature on Windows Phone 8. Comments from popular blogs and IT news sites tended to be split into two camps. Those who thought having a save place for your kids to play was great and those who thought you were stupid for giving your expensive smart phone to a child. Obviously the latter seldom spend any time with children.

I love the idea of being able to let my son play games while we face those unavoidable delays, such as doctor's surgery rooms or the hairdresser. The fact that he can play and I don't have to worry about him pressing the wrong combination of buttons and making a long-distance means I can relax and not be a helicopter parent.

So how does Kid's Corner Work?

Pressing the Kid's Corner tile on the start screen will enable you to configure the apps, games and music you want your children to have access to. The configuration tool will also prompt you to set a password for the lock screen, so that if your kids turn out to be ultra-smart (as most do) and figure out the different swipe gesture required to enter with 'full-permissions', you'll be safe.

Once configured, Kid's Corner can be access by swiping left on the lock screen. Once the little-ones have played all the games you want, you can exit Kid's Corner by pressing power button. Once you're back to the familiar lock screen, enter your password to unlock the phone with full permissions.

Now where's a REAL device?

After about 10-minute I was staring at my newly un-remarkable WP7 Nokia 800 and wondering how I could get me hands on a Windows Phone 8 device. Sadly the news is not good. After all the waiting, anticipation and even more waiting, I still won't be able to get a device from my carrier (or any other carrier in Australia) for quite a while yet. My phone is out of contract and I am ready to buy, but neither love nor money will have me showing off a WP8 device any time soon to my Android totting colleagues. Damn, that Samsung ATIV S looks really great – shame it's exclusive to Optus (who chose to forget my neck-of-the-woods when building towers).

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Windows Phone 8 | Windows Phone 8 | WP8 | WP8

New size options for HubTiles

by CameronM 5. February 2012 21:53

One of the main visual changes to the start screen in Windows Phone 7.8 and 8 is that it now supports three sizes of live tiles. The default (medium) tile is now larger and gone is the black strip to the right that used to be home to an arrow that took you to the app screen. 

This milestone seemed like a good time to revisit the HubTile control from the Windows Phone Toolkit to see if it could support these new formats. The early versions on the HubTile is was a painful process to choose the size of the tile, having to resort to copying and modifying the XAML elements and animations, as discussed in the post. 

Thankfully, since the September 2012 release of the Windows Phone Toolkit, the HubTile control now comes with a Size property that allows you to select from four sizes, Default, Small, Medium and Large. A look at the source code for this release reveals the size of each of these tiles.

switch (hubTile.Size) 
{ 
    case TileSize.Default: 
        hubTile.Width = 173; 
        hubTile.Height = 173; 
        break; 
  
    case TileSize.Small: 
        hubTile.Width = 99; 
        hubTile.Height = 99; 
        break; 
  
    case TileSize.Medium: 
        hubTile.Width = 210; 
        hubTile.Height = 210; 
        break; 
  
    case TileSize.Large: 
        hubTile.Width = 432; 
        hubTile.Height = 210; 
        break; 
}

Using these new sizes with the data bound HubTile example we used in another post is simple. The easiest option is to specify the Size property in the ItemTemplate.

<ListBox Grid.Row="0" Name="AvatarListView">
    <ListBox.ItemsPanel>
        <ItemsPanelTemplate>
            <toolkit:WrapPanel Orientation="Horizontal" />
        </ItemsPanelTemplate>
    </ListBox.ItemsPanel>
    <ListBox.ItemTemplate>
        <DataTemplate>
            <toolkit:HubTile 
		Margin="12,12,0,0" 
		Title="{Binding Title}"
		Message="{Binding Message}"
		Source="{Binding ImageUri}"
                Size="Medium"/>
        </DataTemplate>
    </ListBox.ItemTemplate>
</ListBox>

Of course, you can also bind the Size property to property on your underlying data source. To do this, add a TileSize property to the HubTileItem class and modify the HubTile control XAML as below.

public class HubTileItem
{
    public string Title { getset; }
    public string Message { getset; }
    public Uri ImageUri { getset; }
    public TileSize TileSize {getset;}
}

<toolkit:HubTile 
	Margin="12,12,0,0" 
	Title="{Binding Title}"
	Message="{Binding Message}"
	Source="{Binding ImageUri}"
   	Size="{Binding TileSize}"/>

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Windows Phone 7 | Windows Phone 8 | WP7 | WP8